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Home | Tag Archives: ep water (page 2)

Tag Archives: ep water

EP Water: Summer sandbag distribution schedule begins July 8

Officials with El Paso Water announced that customers can now get sandbags for flood control any day of the week beginning Monday, July 8. The expanded site locations and hours will be available through the end of September.

The summer distribution sites will reopen in the Mission Valley, west, central and east areas of El Paso, and hours will be extended at the Stormwater Operations Center, which is open throughout the year.

Customers in areas prone to flooding are encouraged to have sandbags on hand before most heavy rains begin. The limit is 10 bags per visit.

Customers will need to show a Texas ID or an El Paso Water bill to get sandbags.

El Paso Water does not charge for sandbags. Persons who cannot lift heavy items should be accompanied by someone who can assist with loading and unloading the bags.

Summer Distribution Locations & Schedule July 8 – End of September
Northeast Stormwater Operations Center
4801 Fred Wilson Ave. 79906 (map)
8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
2 p.m. – 8 p.m.
West Artcraft Booster Station
7830 Paseo Del Norte (map)
Daily 2 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Central Haskell R. Street Wastewater Treatment Plant
913 S. Boone St. (map)
Daily 2 p.m. – 8 p.m.
East Cielo Vista Booster Station
9428 Daugherty Drive (map)
Daily 2 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Mission Valley Blackie Chesher Park
9292 Escobar Drive (map)
Daily 2 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Video+Story: EP Water crews welcome the river

Bursting with the benefits of a winter and spring’s bumper snowpack, El Paso Water is finally welcoming the Rio Grande.

At long last, water released from Caballo Reservoir on May 31 is flowing into EPWater’s two surface water facilities: the Robertson/Umbenhauer Water Treatment Plant and the Jonathan Rogers Water Treatment Plant, said Water Supply Manager Ruben Rodriguez.

EPWater is expecting 16 weeks of river water delivery. A full supply typically lasts 30 weeks while the drought of 2013 yielded a scant delivery of six weeks.

Usually, water would have streamed into El Paso around March, but record low storage levels at Elephant Butte – 3% capacity – late last year forced a water release delay.

“We went into the winter expecting severe drought levels because of the reservoir conditions that we noticed last fall, and then we end up with a historic snowpack – 200% of normal,” said Scott Reinert, Water Resources Manager. “We haven’t had a 200% normal snowpack in 15 years.”

Photo courtesy EP Water

Last summer, the Public Service Board approved a drought resolution for EPWater, which allows for the expedited startup of drought-relief projects. The utility’s well program was expanded to 21 new and existing wells to supplement El Paso’s water supply, while still responsibly pumping to avoid low aquifer levels.

El Paso relies on both river water and groundwater for its municipal water supply. Groundwater supplies are pumped from the Mesilla and Hueco bolsons. River water is supplied from the Rio Grande, which is primarily derived from snowmelt runoff in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico.

The flow first makes its way into Elephant Butte and Caballo reservoirs, where U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials then release it each spring for irrigators and other users in Doña Ana County, West Texas and Mexico. A treaty and interstate compact govern the distribution of waters.

Photo courtesy EP Water

This year’s river water supply comes just in time to help EPWater meet its peak demand when water use soars to about 160 million gallons per day.

This period usually occurs in mid-June when temperatures begin to climb. EPWater’s innovative portfolio of water resources, including desalination, water reuse and conservation, help fill gaps to keep faucets flowing.

To maximize El Paso’s supply, EPWater will prioritize water conservation as it has for more than 25 years.

Conservation is a way of life on the borderland, and as a result, the utility has seen total water usage per person decline by 35 percent since 1991.

“Conservation has to be key to sustainability,” said John Balliew, EPWater President and CEO. Balliew added that a tenet of the utility’s water management practices is to be mindful of El Paso’s location in the arid Chihuahuan Desert.

The recent variance of river flows spotlights the unpredictability of river water supply from year to year, Reinert said.

“Even though we may have had a good snow pack this year, it doesn’t last forever,” Reinert said. “The next drought is always around the corner.”

For more info about the river allocation and the processes, visit EP Water’s Facebook or their webpage.

Video: Rio Grande water allocation arrives in El Paso

A quick video from El Paso water, as the Rio Grande is flowing once again.

EPW officials say, “It’s great news for our water supply because we can ease off the pumping of our aquifers and depend on our treatment plants to deliver high-quality, reliable water straight to your tap!”

For more info about the river allocation and the processes, visit EP Water’s Facebook or their webpage.

As Summer approaches, EP Water preps wells for demand

As the city waits to receive its shortened river supply in June, El Paso Water is closing in on a May 1 deadline to prime eight new wells for pumping fresh water into the distribution system.

“Every drop of water counts when your city is in the middle of a long-term river drought, EP Water officials shared. “EPWater will supplement El Paso’s water supply by responsibly pumping from wells to meet demand.”

Visitors to a well-equipping event earlier this month were given a behind-the-scenes tour, as crews prepared wells for the water distribution system.

The group was shown well 42A – 705-foot-deep well – and one of eight included in EPWater’s Drought Resolution Program, which was approved in July to allow for expedited procurement for drought-relief projects.

Utility Water Resources Manager Scott Reinert invited engineering consultants from Brown and Caldwell to engage visitors with details about the drought-relief project, which is about 75% complete.

Visitors learned about the multi-disciplined approach necessary to complete a well-equipping project – one that involves civil, mechanical, electrical and structural engineering.

“Hosting an event like this lets people see the efforts from the contractor, consultants and the El Paso Water staff,” Reinert said.

Engineer Joe Moreno of Brown and Caldwell told visitors that Well 42A is a replacement for the old Well 42, which had collapsed and was no longer able to produce water.

“It’s more cost effective to drill a whole new well,” Moreno said. “Rehab can be quite expensive, and if you rehab you are not going to get as many years like you would with a brand-new well.”

“You can spend $200,000 fixing an old well and it may last about five years, or you can spend more money on a new one and it will last 50 years,” Reinert added.

Operation of the 705 foot-deep well will soon be connected into EPWater’s Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system, said Engineer Armando Ramirez of Brown and Caldwell. Once connected, the well will be among the hundreds remotely monitored by Central Control – key to the city’s water distribution.

“Central Control has the ability to stop and start the well,” Ramirez said. “They will know how much flow, the pressure and if there’s an intrusion.”

Utility Engineering Associate Eric Jacquez was among the visitors who said he was happy to gain a wealth of knowledge about wells.

“I didn’t know the process and rules behind building a well,” Jacquez said. “This was educational and worthwhile.”

“I have worked at El Paso Water for a little over 30 years and this is the first time I saw how we search for a suitable location to drill a well, construct and make it operational,” said Oscar Chavez, Engineering Lead Technician. “It’s not as simple as I thought. I believe the public and El Paso Water employees benefit greatly from attending these events.”

Reinert expects to host another similar educational event in the fall.

“It shows what’s involved in water supply projects as well as the teamwork that’s needed to get these projects completed with aggressive scheduled requirements,” he said.

Video+Story: EP Water updates on water reuse plans, Advanced Water Purification facility

Last week, the WateReuse Association convened in Washington D.C. for a Water Week 2019 Congressional Briefing to highlight how utilities across the country are using water recycling in a variety of ways to benefit their respective communities.

El Paso Water’s Chief Technical Officer Gilbert Trejo was among the main panel presenters, who spoke about the utility’s Advanced Water Purification Facility, piloted in 2016.

With preliminary designs now complete, the utility is one step closer to making the facility a reality.

“I think it’s very exciting for El Pasoans to know that what we’re doing here in El Paso is going to change the water industry,” Trejo said. “The water community knows and understands that these treatment processes treat the water and produce a very high-quality water. It’s a matter of which community is going to be the first one to have absolute trust in their water utility and in the water to drink it. And that’s what we’re about to do here in El Paso.”

Treated wastewater, that already meets safe environmental standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), will go through the advanced water purification process to produce a safe, reliable and drought-proof drinking water.

“When our customers learn that millions of gallons of crystal-clean water are being discharged back into the canal or back into the river, the first thing they ask us is, ‘Why aren’t we reusing it?’” Trejo said.

In 2016, EPWater piloted the advanced water purification process. Thousands of water samples were analyzed and reviewed by state regulators. The results demonstrated that safe, high quality drinking water can be produced through the process.

“Water studies and epidemiological studies have shown through history that a multi-barrier approach to water treatment is the best defense in preventing or reducing water-borne disease in communities,” said Dr. Kristina Mena. “And that’s exactly what the Advanced Water Purification Facility does.”

Mena served on an expert advisory panel convened by the National Water Research Institute to review EPWater’s Advanced Water Purification Pilot Facility and is also serving on a similar panel for the State of Colorado. She is confident in EPWater’s approach to advanced water purification. The panel agrees and wrote a strong letter of support to TCEQ for the project.

To help the community understand the need for the Advanced Water Purification Facility, EPWater crafted a multi-faceted, bilingual outreach program that began in 2013 and continues today. The program utilizes social media, media relations and education efforts to help the community understand the quality of water produced and how important this facility is to keep water flowing if river water supplies are limited.

One of the many activities in the outreach program was tours of the pilot facility.

According to EP Water officials, over 300 people have visited the pilot facility and all filled out pre and post tour surveys.

“Prior to the tour, 84% of the people were in favor of this type of project in El Paso. After the tour, 96% of the visitors said they were supportive of the project,” officials said.

Designs for the Advanced Water Purification Facility are expected to be complete in the next 1-2 years. Construction should begin soon after, and the plant is expected to go on-line by 2024.

EPWater is actively pursuing state and federal funding opportunities to lessen the financial impact of the new facility on ratepayers.

“I think we have a utility that is very advanced and very progressive when it comes to treatment of water,” Trejo said. “But most important, service to our customers is No. 1. This project is at the forefront of our mission to provide our customers the highest quality of water for them to drink.”

EP Water’s Certified Water Partner Program Honored by ‘Texan by Nature’

AUSTIN – Texan by Nature (TxN), a Texas-based conservation non-profit founded by former First Lady Laura Bush, announced Monday the selection of the 2019 Conservation Wranglers – including a program by El Paso Water.

“Texan by Nature brings innovation in conservation to the forefront for the benefit of generations of Texans to come,” said former First Lady and Founder of Texan by Nature, Mrs. Laura Bush. “We are honored to showcase the brilliant minds within the conservation field and support their incredible work as official TxN Conservation Wranglers.”

Texan by Nature brings business and conservation together through initiatives that promote stewardship of Texan natural resources.

The organization’s Conservation Wrangler program recognizes innovative and transformative conservation projects across the state of Texas.

Each Conservation Wrangler project models “Return on Conservation” by positively impacting people, prosperity, and natural resources. The TxN team will be working with the projects for 12-18 months providing tailored aid, resources, and visibility.

“Conservation Wrangler applications increased by 100% this year,” said Joni Carswell, President and CEO of TxN. “We are proud of the community’s response and inspired by the continuous work being done across the Lone Star State. The 2019 Conservation Wranglers are posed to positively impact our land, natural resources and people and are prime examples of how we achieve BIG, BOLD, conservation in Texas.”

The six selected 2019 Conservation Wranglers include:

El Paso Water – Certified Water Partner Program
Located in the Chihuahuan Desert, which typically receives less than 9 inches of rain a year, El Paso is a city that has long grappled with water security.

In recent decades, municipal water planning has led to increased resource diversification, expanded water reclamation, passage of conservation ordinances, new plumbing codes for water efficiency in new homes, as well as rebate and incentive programs to cut water consumption.

With these measures in place, El Paso has successfully reduced per-person residential water use by 35%.

To continue their efforts and incentivize water conservation, the city created the Certified Water Partner program with the vision of engaging commercial and industrial customers by raising awareness of cost-reducing water conservation practices and giving positive recognition to businesses for implementing them.

The Certified Water Partner Program is seeking increased visibility to better reach El Paso businesses and spread the message of water conservation to other Texas communities.

Ducks Unlimited – Texas Prairie Wetlands Project
Established in 1991, the Texas Prairie Wetlands Project (TPWP) is a collaborative effort between Ducks Unlimited, Inc., Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Gulf Coast Joint Venture, and the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

The primary goal is to restore, enhance, and protect shallow, seasonally flooded wetland habitat on private lands along the Texas Gulf Coast. These ephemeral wetlands provide critical wintering and migration habitat for thousands of waterfowl, shorebirds, and other wetland-dependent species, in addition to water filtration and other ecosystem services. TPWP provides cost-share assistance to private landowners and technical advice from partners.

The project has delivered more than 83,000 wetland acres in the region and is seeking additional engagement with landowners, landowning businesses and corporations along the Texas Coast.

Galveston Bay Foundation – Oyster Shell Recycling
Oyster reefs are an important component of healthy estuarine ecosystems, filtering contaminants from the water, protecting shorelines, stabilizing sediment, and providing food and shelter for other species.

Despite their importance, oyster reefs are one of the most threatened marine habitats in the world, with documented losses of 85% globally due to extreme weather and unsustainable harvesting. The Galveston Bay Foundation (GBF) reclaims shucked oyster shells from local seafood restaurants through their recycling program, which are used in restoration activities throughout the Galveston Bay estuary.

Since 2011, GBF has collected over 900 tons of oyster shells, of which over 60% have already been incorporated into reef restoration projects. GBF’s Oyster Shell Recycling Program aims to raise awareness about oyster reef restoration and recruit new restaurant partners in the Houston-Galveston area.

Friends of Rio Grande Valley Reef
Located 13-miles northeast of South Padre Island, the 1650-acre Rio Grande Valley (RGV) Reef is the largest artificial reef off the Texas coast.

Since 2014, Friends of RGV Reef is dedicated to the ongoing habitat restoration of this important fishery by implementing comprehensive science-based management of this Gulf ecosystem. Historically, this low-relief nursery reef was comprised of sandstone, clay, caliche, and associated soft coral cover.

This created valuable habitat for juvenile Red Snapper and other reef fishes. However, this low-relief material had been severely degraded by trawl fishing in recent decades, drastically reducing juvenile snapper survivorship and recruitment. Friends of RGV Reef combat this loss by deploying artificial reefing materials of different concentrations and sizes, ranging from intentionally sunken vessels to concrete rail ties and cinder blocks.

Diverse, complex reef substrate can provide habitat for snapper of all ages and sizes, in addition to habitat for hundreds of other species of fish, invertebrates, and turtles that frequent the reef. Friends of RGV Reef is seeking to raise awareness of this ecologically and economically important reef, and to secure material, financial, and academic support for their restoration efforts.

Oaks and Prairies Joint Venture – Grassland Restoration Incentive Program
In the last century, grassland birds have experienced greater population losses than any other North American avian group, with some species declining more than 90%.

Though many factors contribute to population declines, the primary cause is the widespread loss of quality native grassland and shrub savanna habitat. Introduction of non-native grasses, fire suppression, overgrazing, and cropland conversion have reduced this important habitat to less than 3% of its pre-settlement land area.

Since 2012, in response to these threats, the Oaks and Prairies Joint Venture (OPJV) flagship Grassland Restoration Incentive Program (GRIP) has engaged partners and landowners to restore privately-owned grasslands across the state. GRIP provides financial incentives to landowners for implementing grassland bird habitat practices on their lands, in addition to technical support from partner organizations.

OPJV is seeking to raise awareness of their successful restoration efforts and reach other Texas communities with their message of grassland conservation for bobwhites, songbirds, pollinators, other wildlife, and the Texas citizens who live in and enjoy our natural environment.

Trinity Nature Conservancy – Trinity River Paddling Trail
The Trinity River is the longest fully-contained river in the state of Texas, flowing through 18,000 square miles of watershed and through five major eco-regions. With the support of local municipalities, the Trinity Nature Conservancy (TNC) launched their Trinity River Paddling Trail project in 2018 that will establish a 127-mile paddling trail along the Trinity River.

The trail will provide 7.4 million residents of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex with recreation, conservation, and education opportunities. This project will create paddling trail connectivity and increase river accessibility, resulting in increased public education and awareness of the importance of the Trinity River and its surrounding ecosystems.

TNC hopes the increased awareness will result in efforts to enhance water quality, in addition to increase conservation efforts along the river. TNC hopes to gain National Recreation Trail designation from the National Park Service. Long-term goals include an extension of the paddling path to reach the river’s terminus into Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

TNC is seeking partners, volunteers, and funding for the project.

Texan by Nature 2019 Conservation Wranglers were selected, in part, based on the following criteria:

• Texan-led conservation initiative
• Benefits community by providing tangible returns for people, prosperity, and natural resources
• Reaches new and diverse audiences
• Science-based
• Measurable process and conservation outcomes
• Partnership between community, business, individuals, and conservation organizations

All will receive 12-18 months of tailored support and resources including:

• Connections to technical expertise and industry support
• Recognition and participation in annual Conservation Wrangler Summit and Celebration
• TxN seal of partnership
• Op-Ed piece promoting individual initiative
• Letter of support from TxN leadership
• Content and collateral cross promotion via TxN channels including social media, newsletters, and website

Texan by Nature’s work spans multiple conservation initiatives, including the Conservation Wrangler program, the TxN Certification program, and the Symposia series, which features pollinator initiatives, health and nature research, and the TxN Leadership Roundtables.

TxN officials add, “These programs aim to deliver measurable results by building collaborative, science-based initiatives between individuals, communities, conservation organizations, and businesses.”

Texan by Nature will recognize the 2019 Conservation Wranglers on November 13, 2019, in Dallas, TX at the George W. Bush Presidential Center. This diverse set of projects impacts land, water, habitat, and more, spanning 64 counties and 7 ecological regions.

Video+Story: EP Water’s Pipe Tapping Team eyes top state prize

At El Paso Water, Eddie Pulido, Armando Gonzalez, Norberto Olmos and Julio Soto make important daily contributions as a construction superintendent, utility pipelayers and a lead service worker.

On April 4, the four water distribution colleagues will take their places as coach, setter, cranker and copper during the Texas section of the American Water Works Association (AWWA) Pipe Tapping Competition in Houston.

EPWater’s pipe tapping team members are eyeing the top prize, and it’s not just a pipe dream.

“We have a good team, and we know we are capable,” said Pulido, the coach. “We set the bar and decided this year we are going for all the marbles.”

The friendly competition is intense, pitting utility teams in a race that simulates connecting a copper pipe from a water meter to a water main.

It’s a contest that requires precision, strength and speed, all while maintaining the highest level of safety and quality. Errors, such as leaks or safety missteps, may result in penalty time added to their results. Winning times clock in under the 2-minute mark.

Each team member’s role counts, said Gonzalez, making teamwork and communication of utmost importance. If anything starts to go wrong, it can affect the entire team.

“If the team doesn’t communicate, it results in penalties,” said Soto, the copper. “I think we perform well under pressure. We are ready.”

“When we balance our roles, it’s like a dance,” said Olmos, the cranker. “We have to work together. These guys are like family. It’s a team effort, with a lot of communication.”

Gonzalez, the setter, loves being part of the team. Nothing feels better than garnering support from EPWater management and co-workers, including the support of family and friends from his native hometown of Monterrey, Mexico.

“When a video of our performance went on YouTube, family and friends were so proud,” Gonzalez said, who has worked at EPWater 12 years. Gonzalez frequently reminds his teammates they are the first team from the utility to compete.

The team has picked up valuable tips from winning teams over the years, Soto said.

“They told me I was really good and gave me ideas on how to perform faster,” Soto said, who has worked at EPWater five years. Trading work tips and the experience of competing translates into skills he can put to work in the field, he added.

Felipe Lopez, Distribution and Collection Systems Division Manager, said the team has support from the field office but would like to see their fan base grow.

“These guys have put in three hours of their own time to practice on Saturdays on top of working all week and on top of working their stand-by crew shifts at night,” Lopez said. “They have been out here more than they have been home.”

The winner on April 4 advances to compete in June at AWWA’s Annual Conference and Exposition in Denver.

Op-Ed: What snowpack means to El Paso’s water supply

El Paso has high hopes for the snowpack in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico. Every drop of water counts when your city is in the middle of a long-term river drought.

But a hearty snowpack doesn’t necessarily solve our water supply challenges. Our community’s river supply is dependent on how much water reaches Elephant Butte Reservoir, which is currently at 10 percent of its capacity.

River drought in 2018 resulted in a low of 3 percent capacity at Elephant Butte. Preliminary indications signal a May delivery of river water – two months later than normal.

Rio Grande Watershed

When El Paso Water tracks snowpack, we focus on the precipitation that falls within the Rio Grande Watershed Basin, which extends 355,500 square miles through three U.S. states – Colorado, New Mexico and Texas – and five Mexican states.

The 1939 Rio Grande Compact divides a significant portion of the Rio Grande’s water among Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. The amount of water that states receive depends on how much water is in the river that year. Upstream reservoirs – such as Heron, El Vado, Abiquiu and Cochiti – capture and help manage Rio Grande water resources.

The West has received plenty of snowfall this winter, but to understand what this means for El Paso and Elephant Butte, it’s important to focus more narrowly on the snowpack within our watershed. Snow falling in Denver, Colorado, or even in neighboring Ruidoso, New Mexico, won’t benefit the Rio Grande. However, if snow falls in the mountains near the Wolf Creek ski area in Colorado, or the New Mexico mountains near Taos or parts of Santa Fe – the Rio Grande will gain from the snow melt.

Our Rio Grande water depends on several factors falling into place: snowpack, runoff and soil conditions, and how much water is in storage at Elephant Butte.

Melting snowpack may be affected by factors such as sublimation when warm winds in May blow, transforming snow into water vapor.

Two issues that could affect runoff flowing down into Elephant Butte are flooding in northern New Mexico and seepage losses, whether to dry soils or irrigation canal systems along the Rio Grande Corridor.

El Paso depends on the Rio Grande for about half of its water supply. However, EPWater has experienced severely reduced river supplies in the recent past. We endured 2013 – a year we received 10,000 out of a possible 60,000 acre feet of normal river water supply.

In anticipation

After studying the situation for several months, staff acted to reprioritize Capital Improvement Plan projects as well as expedite certain work to ensure preparedness. As a result, the Public Service Board in July 2018 approved a Drought Resolution, which allows for accelerated procurement for drought-relief projects.

Limited river water means groundwater is at a premium. EPWater maximizes groundwater production by rehabilitating old wells and drilling new ones. To protect freshwater portions of our aquifer, we have applied desalination technologies to certain Lower Valley wells called upon during drought.

We have prepared for this by easing off groundwater production in years when we have a normal river water supply. This helps stabilize our aquifers and prevents over-pumping.

EPWater possesses a reliable portfolio of water resources that we can turn to when one resource is limited, including desalination and water reuse. For many years, water reuse has been an effective water management strategy, whether replenishing our Hueco aquifer with treated wastewater or using reclaimed water for irrigation of parks, golf courses and industry.

We can also count on the Kay Bailey Hutchison Desalination Plant, which has helped us meet our water needs in times of drought. The world’s largest inland desalination plant can produce up to 27.5 million gallons of fresh water per day.

EPWater is prepared to take on drought and prove our resiliency. Even though El Paso faces a shortened river water supply this spring,

EPWater wants to assure customers that we have reliable options. We have built an innovative portfolio of water resources for circumstances exactly like this one.

As always, we will rely on our customers to be prudent and responsible with their water choices because in El Paso conservation is a way of life. For almost three decades, EPWater has seen total water usage per person decline by 35 percent.

Author: John Balliew, P.E., President/CEO – El Paso Water


The El Paso Herald-Post welcomes guest columns, open letters, letters to the Editor and analysis pieces for publication, to submit a piece or for questions regarding guidelines, please email us at

El Paso Water to Assist Furloughed Workers

On Wednesday afternoon, officials with El Paso Water announced plans to assist furloughed workers who have missed paychecks due to the government shutdown.

EPWater will assist any federal worker who may need additional flexibility in paying their bill. Appropriate identification and verification of furloughed status is required so EPWater can suspend water shut-offs and offer payment deferments and/or flexible payment plans.

Affected customers should email with the following information: a copy of their ID or pay stub to verify they are a federal employee, their account number and a phone number or email to reach them.

They are asked to type “Furloughed worker” in the subject line.

Customers may also visit the customer service center at 6400 Boeing Drive, Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

El Paso Water Inspectors Take on Fats, Oils and Grease

El Paso Water’s Kyle Eckert and Luis Velasquez have heard all about the giant ball of grease – weighing 130 tons – that recently threatened to flood London’s streets with wastewater.

The pretreatment inspectors for Environmental Compliance and Industrial Pretreatment want you to know that EPWater is working toward a cleaner city one drain at a time.

Utility FOG inspectors aim to make sure London’s problem doesn’t become El Paso’s by educating restaurant staffs across the city. Their goal is to prevent wastewater blockages by teaching El Pasoans how to properly dispose of fats, oils and grease (FOG).

London’s giant mass – aka fatberg – formed when cooking oil and other fats were flushed down drains. From there, flushed FOG accumulated with other discarded materials , such as wipes and diapers.

The message is simple, Eckert said. “Be informed, be aware of what you are dumping down the drain and how it will impact the

Photo courtesy EP Water

community,” Eckert tells restaurant owners and managers.

Both Eckert and Velasquez have worked at wastewater plants and are familiar with the damage FOG can wreak.

“People want information on FOG,” Velasquez said. “The people we talk to want to know what’s wrong, how it’s wrong and how they can fix it.”

“We work very hard to minimize the impacts to the wastewater system, but we must rely heavily on individuals and businesses taking personal responsibility for what is poured down their drains,” said Sonia Wyatt, Code Compliance Manager.

During an inspection to a popular bakery on the East Side, Eckert trained Velasquez on EPWater’s FOG program, which regulates the discharge, transportation and disposal of FOG. Both checked the bakery’s grease trap to ensure compliance standards had been met.

What they found, though, was a grease trap brimming with fats, food waste and red chile sauce, the kind used for menudo and red chile tamales.

Photo courtesy EP Water

“It can get bad enough that the grease trap or pipe can no longer do its job,” Eckert said.

The FOG inspectors’ message is especially important Inspectors find FOGaround the holiday season when El Pasoans are cooking. The message is relevant year-round, Eckert said. EPWater reminds customers about the consequences of not heeding this advice with the “Defend Your Drains” outreach campaign.

One of the best ways to enforce the FOG message is by passing on the knowledge that comes with the job, Eckert said. It also helps if you have a captive audience, like the students at Ramona Elementary students on a recent visit.

“If you tell a child, they will tell their parents as soon as they get home,” Velasquez said. “They will make sure that their parents are disposing of FOG the right way.”

For more information, visit the EP Water page on FOG.

Sandbag Distribution Program Returns to Regular Schedule

With rain moving into the area, El Paso Water officials remind residents that there is only one location to pick up sandbags in the city.

The Stormwater Operations Center, located at 4801 Fred Wilson, is open throughout the year. Customers can get sandbags between 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The limit is 10 bags per visit. Please bring a copy of your water bill.

Persons who cannot lift heavy items should be accompanied by someone who can assist with loading and unloading the bags.

The Central location was closed for the season at the end of September. All seasonal satellite sites will reopen next summer.

Sandbag Distribution Sites
Through Oct. 5 Beginning Oct. 6
Northeast Stormwater Operations Center

4801 Fred Wilson Ave. (map)

Mon-Fri: 8AM-8PM

Sat-Sun: 2PM-8PM

Mon-Fri: 8AM-4PM

Sat-Sun: Closed

West Artcraft Booster Station

7830 Paseo Del Norte (map)

Mon-Sun: 2PM-8PM Closed
Central Haskell R. Street Wastewater Treatment Plant

913 S. Boone St. (map)

Closed Closed
East Cielo Vista Booster Station

9428 Daugherty Drive (map)

Mon-Sun: 2PM-8PM Closed
Mission Valley Blackie Chesher Park

9292 Escobar Drive (map)

Mon-Sun: 2PM-8PM Closed

Video+Story: Mural of Chihuahuita, Water Plant Unveiled to Celebrate 75th Anniversary

On Thursday, El Paso Water threw open the doors at the W.E. Robertson Water Treatment Plant in honor of the plant’s 75th anniversary.

Chihuahuita neighbors, former employees and water sector professionals streamed inside, eager to tour the historic yet pioneering plant, as mariachis and folklorico dancers provided entertainment.

“This plant represents the foresight of city individuals who dedicated their lives to ensure that El Paso has a continuous, safe and sustainable supply of water,” said President and CEO John Balliew, who fondly recalled beginning his utility career at the plant’s laboratory more than 30 years ago. “We had a great group of employees back then, just as we have now.”

Public Service Board member Dr. Kristina Mena spoke about the importance of river water and what it means to El Paso’s water supply. The water treatment plant came online during a time of remarkable growth for the borderland.

Residents faced crime, growth, health and environmental challenges, some linked to water quality and supply.

“This beautiful plant marked El Paso’s first step to diversify its water supply so El Paso could thrive and sustain itself,” Mena said. “The importance of river water cannot be understated. Today, El Paso relies on river water for half its water supply in a non-drought year.”

EPWater commissioned a painting by local, acclaimed artist Patrick Gabaldon to mark the occasion. The painting features the close relationship between colorful Chihuahuita and the water treatment plant.

“Although the community did have to part with some of their cherished sites to make room for the construction of this plant in the 1940s, within time many in Chihuahuita came to accept the plant and understand that it was necessary because it would benefit the city,” said Christina Montoya, Communications and Marketing Director. “Many residents also took jobs at the plant.”

Chihuahuita Neighborhood Association leader Manuela Rodriguez couldn’t contain her excitement once inside the plant.

“Just walking in brought a lot of memories of my dad who worked here for a long time,” she said. “We fished back here.”

The painting was the cherry on top and a nice personal touch, she said.

“What caught my eye was the poles of red, white and blue because my brother and the neighborhood decided to paint all the poles around the neighborhood with the colors of the flag when 9/11 happened.”

To benefit community improvement projects identified by the Chihuahuita Neighborhood Association, signed prints of the painting were sold during the event and will still be available, with funds collected by the El Paso Community Foundation.

From the left – John Balliew – Kristina Mena – Manuela Rodriguez

Video+Story: EPWater Honors ‘The Shack’ Restaurant for Mastering Water-Smart Habits

The Shack Wings & Brews Restaurant has always been committed to saving water, but the owners never thought they would be honored for it.

“It’s a surprise to us, and we’re grateful for the recognition because we believe in conserving water,” Co-Owner Adrian Soto said.

El Paso Water recognized The Shack Wings & Brews, located at 1883 N. Zaragoza, at its 2018 Conservation Hero event at the El Paso Chihuahuas’ baseball game.

“Of all the restaurants here in El Paso, to come out on top… wow,” General Manager Jaime Garcia said. “It’s a good feeling.”

The Shack – as well as 52 other restaurants – were screened and evaluated to become Certified Water Partners. Criteria included the responsible disposal of fats, oils and grease to protect wastewater systems, water efficient faucets, toilets, washing machines and more.

“The more water efficient products used, the bigger the point value,” said Norma Guzman, EPWater Water Conservation Specialist. “We tally up all those points and if they’ve reached a certain benchmark, then we can certify them as a partner.”

Based on scoring, The Shack ranked the highest in terms of water conservation.

Garcia has been in the restaurant industry for over 30 years and attributes the restaurant’s success to foresight and attention to detail.

“We were willing to spend a little more money to buy the commodes,” Garcia said. “We considered whether it would help us save money in the long run, and as you can see it paid off.”

Garcia said leaking faucets also have to be addressed immediately. “It’s amazing how much water you can lose with just one leaking faucet.”

For restaurants considering becoming a Certified Water Partner, Soto said, “Do your part to conserve. Every little thing counts. I thought I was the small guy in the industry, and we made an impact.”

Though restaurants can see an immediate return on water bill savings, conservation also helps ensure a sustainable water supply for El Paso’s future.

“It shows a partnership, that we’re all in it together – it’s not just residential and individual people,” Guzman said.

For more information, visit EPWater’s Conservation Heroes and Certified Water Partner pages.

Video+Story: Technology Spurs EP Water’s Odor Control Projects

Times and technology have changed El Paso Water’s Haskell R. Street Wastewater Treatment Plant, and so have the complaints regarding odor control.

In 2012, EP Water commissioned a report to identify odor control solutions. One the results were in, crews began implementation of those solutions shortly thereafter. With the new technology – and the 29 workers at the plant, on Delta Drive south of the El Paso County Coliseum – EP Water was able cut the number of homes affected by the odors from 21,000 to 5,000, a reduction of odor by 75 percent.

Utility officials say that, “Building on past efforts, recent projects continue to reduce the number of homes affected by odors, and further improvements are imminent….EPWater has made vast improvements over the decades, and neighbors have noticed.”

Now EPWater officials say they are in the middle of the latest and “most significant upgrades” at the 95-year-old plant, which provides services to nearly 150,000 customers in Central El Paso and Fort Bliss.

“We have revised the odor control master plan, incorporated technological advancements, and began installations and replacements to further decrease odors from the plant.”

The latest round of the first of five odor control projects started in 2015, with de-grit facilities. Chemicals added to wastewater mains came next and was completed in 2017. The third project, associated with the rehabilitation of four primary clarifiers, is nearing completion.

“We are confident that two remaining future projects will practically eliminate odors for the Haskell plant’s neighbors: a headworks project, as well as an aeration channel cover and dewatering project,” officials shared.  “Combating odors at EPWater’s wastewater treatment plants is a long-term, solid investment…administering odor-control solutions improves working conditions for our employees and enhances quality of life for the community.”

El Paso Water Rolls out New Technology to Help Maintain Water Infrastructure

Technology is making waves at El Paso Water, as the utility modernizes for the future by embracing robotic crawlers and emerging  and ‘trenchless technologies’ that are changing the way crews manage El Paso’s aging infrastructure.

EPWater officials say their push for modernization comes, in part, from “strategic directions prioritized in our 10-year Strategic Plan.”

“We are committed to improving El Paso’s water and stormwater infrastructure, and modernizing equipment and technologies that contribute to increased efficiencies and productivity.”

Stormwater operations employees rave about the new MiniDozer, which can carry a half-ton of debris and do the work of a six-person crew to clear waterways. The MiniDozer also makes it safer for Stormwater employees who work year-round to keep systems free of debris.

Now a crew of three workers, with one operating the MiniDozer via a remote control that resembles a video game control with joysticks, does the work of a crew of six workers with wheelbarrows and shovels.

Another innovative tool is the ‘G3 crawler,’ which uses electromagnetism to detect potential breaks in EPWater’s major water mains. The tethered robot crawls along the bottom of a water line, recording video for inspection of the pipe’s interior.

With the G3 Crawler, speed and cost savings are paramount.

“The cost-effective technology allows our crew members to get to the root of problems quickly and avoid service disruptions. The remote-controlled robot can pinpoint problem areas, helping crews to avoid costly replacement of entire pipes,” officials stated.

EPWater employees also consider trenchless technologies another low-impact and money-saving option to repair our stressed infrastructure. In recent projects, the utility has employed pipe bursting and Insituform.

• In pipe bursting, specialized equipment pulls a bullet-shaped metal cone through the old pipe, bursting it along the way. The new pipe is fed through the space, and the shards of the old pipe are safely left buried. The process only requires digging up a small area on either end of the pipe, substantially decreasing road closures. The process is twice as fast as the traditional cutting method and offers a 30 percent cost savings.

• Insituform uses cured-in-place pipe technology – a pipe within a pipe – with little to no digging. This more environmentally friendly technology has renewed pipelines beneath interstates and busy roadways without disrupting traffic. This technology was recently used to replace a collapsed stormwater pipe on Belvidere Street in west El Paso.

“EPWater’s technological toolbox will continue to grow as we explore innovative techniques to best serve customers, manage facilities and fund infrastructure improvements,” officials added.

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